(Photo from Armed Forces’ Eastern Mindanao Command PR shows Major Gen. Aurelio Baladad being conferred a lumad tribute by lumads linked to the AFP)
(This is the statement of Rural Missionaries of the Philippines Northern Mindanao Region on President Benigno Aquino III’s response to the militarization and killings in Surigao del Sur and Bukidnon and other areas in Mindanao. You can visit their website at http://www.rmp-nmr.org/)
Instead of ordering an investigation, the president, the commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) gives a careless statement when he said, “There is no campaign to kill anybody in this country. There is a campaign to go after everybody who commits crimes, regardless of who they are.”
His pronouncement is both a denial of what is going on, and at the same time an accusation targeted at the victims butchered by the government forces and supporting paramilitary minions.
While the public document of the government’s Internal Peace and Security Plan, dubbed “Bayanihan,” does not have a word on the killing rampage of the AFP, the president’s statement of full support and endorsement of the Investment Defense Forces – formally the Special Civilian Armed Auxiliary (SCAA) and informally the paramilitary groups – is a standing order for the military’s guiding principle. At the core of the military’s actions is the interest to protect business firms – not the people it has sworn to protect.
If President Aquino says the campaign is to go after a person “who commits crimes” and dismisses the killings as justified actions of the military, then he is implying that those massacred and murdered by his forces were criminals. His statement is consistent with the military’s claim that they have been going after members of the New People’s Army, a statement that has been exposed to be a lie by the communities they have targeted and by the people who have seen their smears in the aftermath of their slaughter (see: Fact-Finding Mission Report on the Pangantucan Massacre).
The Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (ALCADEV) is an award-winning educational institution that has a special curriculum on agriculture, technical and vocational skills. One of the victims of the recent spate of killings is ALCADEV’s executive director, Emerito Samarca. Malahutayong Pakigbisog Alang sa Sumusunod (MAPASU) is an organization of the Manobo community in Surigao del Sur, which has been launching campaigns based on the stand of its members – the primary need to protect their ancestral domain from investments that have long been trying to get ahold of their resources. One of those killed was the head of this organization, and the other his cousin also a member of this group. They were serving the people. Yes, serving the people does not entail killing any of the citizens. Those serving the people were the ones killed. The government killed them.
Sr. Ma. Famita N. Somogod, MSM
Coordinator, RMP-NMR Inc